Being an older guy, I’ve seen a few linguistic peculiarities come and go. Some of them sort of made sense, but others make me wonder. Conversational peculiarities come and go, but there’s one in particular that intrigues me because it has a Biblical connection. Have you noticed how often people tend to begin a conversation, or answer a question, introduce a point, or begin a story with the word, “So”? This handy little word is supposed to be a connecting conjunction, a word that links what’s about to be said with something that preceded it. But these days, it’s randomly and indiscriminately thrown out with no connection intended at all. “So” has effectively become an acceptable way to introduce a comment with no backfill connection, answer a question that hasn’t been asked, or begin a story with no lead-in.
A Flexible Word ~
Whatever your opinion might be about the current culture’s indiscriminate use of the word, “so”, it’s interesting to notice that the Gospel writers used it, too. Well, actually they used the Greek equivalent, of course, but the term they used is accurately translated “so” in many of our English Bibles. The passage that garners my attention today includes a familiar example. In this case, the Gospel writer’s use of it actually does make a connection. It provides a link between a profound, life-changing question Jesus asked and the circumstances leading up to it. But since the word has become so flexible now, we’ll look at using it to draw us into the episode and to prompt us to consider the more personal implications.
The event we’re referring to began with Jesus heading out of Jericho on His way to Jerusalem and His destined appointment with the cross. He was accompanied by His disciples and an assortment of curious onlookers. Crowds were always gathering around this revolutionary young Rabbi to hear what He might say and maybe even witness one of His miracles. This particular day would be one they would never forget — and neither would a blind man named Bartimaeus, who happened to be one of the beggars sitting by the road.
Not a Fantasy ~
Bartimaeus had heard the stories about the incredible miracles Jesus had performed. It was widely reported that He had the power to heal beyond anything anyone had ever imagined. But there was something else that set Him apart from the religious leaders of His day. He displayed unprecedented compassion toward the outcasts. He actually cared about the poor, the sick, the lame, and the afflicted. People told of lepers being cleansed, demons being expelled, hearing and speech being restored, and all kinds of debilitating diseases being instantly healed. They said that He had even restored sight to the blind. But Galilee, where most of those miracles were done, was a long way from Bartimaeus’ home in Jericho. Going there to search for Him would have involved a challenging journey even for those who weren’t blind. For Bartimaeus, finding Him would have been just another fantasy that could never come true. But on this day, unimaginable things were about to unfold.
Imagine what it must have been like for a man like Bartimaeus to hear that this man with the incredible power of God was not in some far off, inaccessible place. He was actually close by and heading in his direction. Hope he had never dared to allow himself to feel suddenly became irresistible.
Only One Option ~
Unable to accurately determine where Jesus was, Bartimaeus did the only thing he could do. He began to continuously shout for mercy in an attempt to get Jesus to notice him. The folks around him found his incessant yelling to be irritating. We can imagine comments like, “Will you please shut up! Jesus may say something controversial, and we don’t want to miss it!” Bartimaeus was not to be deterred and yelled even louder. His persistence paid off, and soon the Son of God noticed him and invited him to a one-on-one meeting. Here’s where Mark inserts that little connective conjunction that’s so popular in our day:
So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you? (Mark 10:51 NKJV)
If Mark was using “so” to connect Jesus’ question to something, it’s reasonable to look back and see what preceded it. Here’s how Mark described the lead-in to the meeting with Jesus.
Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.” And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. (Mark 10:46–50 NKJV)
Bartimaeus’ request had plenty of volume, but not much definition. It was clear that he wanted something from Jesus, but exactly what he was asking for was a bit vague. The “mercy” he was pleading for can take a lot of different forms. Of course, Jesus knew what Bartimaeus meant when he said, “Have mercy on me”, but He wanted him to say it out loudly so that everyone around him could hear it. For a blind man, the question wasn’t hard to answer. Blindness was the problem and sight was the solution. But the question we must ask now is this … Would it be as simple if we put ourselves in the story?
A Deeper Bondage ~
Bartimaeus had a condition that was impossible to hide, but it sentenced him to a deeper bondage that the crowd couldn’t see. Blindness kept him incarcerated in a windowless prison of depressing darkness. It forbade feeling the warmth of a smile on the face of a loved one. It denied him the wonder of watching the endless parade of color and beauty in the world around him. Every day, blindness reminded him of things he couldn’t do, places he couldn’t go, experiences he could never have, goals he could never achieve. The bondage of his affliction went deeper than the external challenges he faced.
There are many more lessons in this episode than we can begin to address, but, in this moment, a couple of observations seem to stand out. First, Bartimaeus lived every day of his life being reminded of things he couldn’t do, obstacles he couldn’t overcome, goals he couldn’t reach, and experiences he couldn’t have. And he was neither the first nor the last to know what that bondage is like. He’s not the only one whose desperate cries for God’s attention haven’t been welcomed by onlookers. And like that day in Jericho, the real problems we face still aren’t recognized by the crowd . . . and neither is the solution.
Time for Impossible Things ~
The fact that someone is neither physically blind, nor reduced to begging on the street, doesn’t mean they’re free. Many feel bound in darkness that no one knows about and shackled with chains hidden from view. We’re living in a time when the need to see God do impossible things on every level has never been greater. The crowd may not like the noise we make to get God’s personal attention, but shutting up to please the crowd will only ensure that our suffering will continue. Jesus still wants a one-on-one meeting with each of us, and He has a deeply personal question to ask. It’s simply, What do you want me to do for you?
“So” … Exposing our most insoluble problems, our most unwinnable battles, and the chains we’ve never been able to break isn’t easy — but neither is living in this darkness.
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- “Blind Bartimaeus isn’t the only one whose desperate cries for God’s attention haven’t been welcomed by onlookers. Like that day in Jericho, the real problems we face still aren’t recognized by the crowd . . . and neither is the solution.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The fact that someone is neither physically blind, nor reduced to begging on the street, doesn’t mean they’re free. Many feel bound in darkness that no one knows about and shackled with chains that are hidden from view.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The need to see God do impossible things on every level has never been greater. The crowd may not like the noise we make to get God’s personal attention, but shutting up to please them will only ensure that our suffering will continue.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Exposing our most insoluble problems, our most unwinnable battles, and the chains we’ve never been able to break isn’t easy — but neither is living in this darkness.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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